Pistons must improve at both ends of court
The Waikato Pistons will get two shots at ending their winless run in round six of the National Basketball League starting tonight.
The NBL's cellar-dwellers travel to New Plymouth to face the Taranaki Mountain Airs tonight and then head home to host the Manawatu Jets tomorrow night.
Five matches into the season, the Advice First Pistons have yet to get on the board but displayed signs in last week's away 89-75 defeat to the Nelson Giants that Doug Courtney's troops are slowly evolving into a team that could come out on top against some of the league's lesser lights.
A desire to field a number of young local players and a limited budget meant the Pistons were always unlikely to be a force this season, and the early swap of imports also set back their development.
While restricting turnovers and limiting easy baskets from their opponents have been the side's biggest flaws to date - the Pistons are conceding 98.4 points per game - an improvement in offensive efficiency would also be a huge help. They're shooting a lowly 41.6 per cent from the field, a worrying 27.5 per cent from beyond the arc and also hurting their chances with an anaemic and inexcusable 59.8 per cent from the free-throw line.
The Pistons trailed throughout against the Giants but staged a stirring comeback at the start of the fourth quarter to draw within six of the hosts. Young point guard Tai Webster led the scoring for the visitors with 23 points, while imports Garrius Holloman and Zack Atkinson had 20 and 14 respectively.
However, the Pistons can't rely on just that trio to lead them to victory, so the input of bench shooting guard Marco Alexander against the Giants was a big plus. Alexander had 12 points in 26 minutes on five-of-nine shooting, including two of three from beyond the arc while also hauling in seven rebounds.
Taranaki are looking to bounce back from a horrible southern trip last weekend. They were thumped 105-83 by the Southland Sharks on Friday night and went down 110-93 the following day to the league-leading Otago Nuggets.
The hosts will field an ageing lineup, ensuring the Pistons are likely to take an up-tempo approach in search of that morale-boosting victory.